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July 9, 2020 Fiction

The Dog and I

Andrew Bertaina

The Dog and I photo

The dog and I are on a walk because my husband and I have been fighting. The dog and I are not in a fight. But, to be fair, I expect less of the dog than I do of my husband. I expect my husband to take out the trash, occasionally fold the laundry and sometimes tell me I look fantastic after a fresh haircut. I do not expect the dog to do more than wag his tail, which is why I can say that I love the dog, who is faithful in his wagging, but why I am unsure if I can say I love my husband, who is not always faithful.

My husband is a proficient fighter. He catalogs the inconsistencies between the things I say and things I do. Against this tactic, I have no defense. For he is right, but what he fails to understand is the internal consistency in my inconsistency. Sometimes, I suspect him of being daft. For, if I say on Sunday that I will go with him for drinks on Wednesday. And by Wednesday, the children in school will have worn me through to bone. How can I keep the word of the Sunday woman, who had no idea who the Wednesday woman would be? This logical consistency to the internal self-supersedes the linguistic promise of the Sunday woman.

My husband says that my logic is flawed, misunderstanding me yet again. Sometimes I find myself still surprised by his tenacious doubt.

The dog, unlike my husband, never surprises me. Nor does he doubt my sincerity. The dog likes to be walked and fed at the same time every day. But I find in the dog, unlike in my husband, a comfort in the repetition as opposed to surprise.

In the sky overhead, silver outlines of clouds sit low in a nearly moonless night. My breath makes a small grey cave. The dog stops to pee in a flower bed gone fallow now. As he pees, I watch the neighbors sit down to dessert. The wife looks across the table at the husband while he delicately brings ice cream towards his mouth. I cannot read their lips or imagine what they might be saying to one another.

Long after the dog is done peeing, and my fingers are rigid with cold, I watch the couple from the street, wondering what secrets they might have that I don’t. On the way home, I think of how I’ll frame the story to my husband, who is, no doubt, wondering whether I’ve taken the train to Vermont. Perhaps when I tell him the story, I’ll be the one who’s peeing in last spring’s flowers, and the dog will be the one watching the husband and wife to try and understand them. Such absurdity once pleased us both.

 

image: Mary Ardery


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